…So why do we treat her like one? We pimp her out, expect her to turn a profit, and then betray her for another.
“Pimpin’ ain’t easy,” and that may be true, but Christians sure make it look like it ain’t no thang. In our attempts to grow the Church and reach the unchurched, we actually exploit her.
We brand her and market her. We dress her in short, yet “attractive” Sunday dresses called services, hoping that if people can just get a feel for her, all of us on our very best behavior, then others might want to take her for a ride around the block. We essentially tell her that she isn’t good enough the way she is—the body of Christ and all. We figure a slew of programs, agendas, and activities will make her more appealing to those seeking.
She can’t go around edifying the saints if she’s too busy trying to please them. She can’t be the light on a hill if she’s covered by what’s new, trendy, and sexy.
Like any pimp, we keep her insulated, even though we claim otherwise. She belongs to us, no one else. We mercilessly defend our right to keep her out of the wrong hands, but we curse her behind her back. We pretend that she’s God’s hope for the world, but we actually keep much of the world out, at least those we deem unworthy or unlovable.
We know that she’s His body, but when we get our hands on her, instead of resembling Christ’s glorious resurrected body, she looks more like His body after His crucifixion, broken and bleeding. She looks like just another hoe, little different than the rest that world has to offer.
She’s become commercialized and globalized. She’s known more for pleasing customers than making disciples. She’s sold out, forced into prosperity teachings and “you deserve to be happy” doctrine.
We measure her success in earthly increments—size and members—and not in spiritual fruit—maturity in Christ.
But it ain’t just about the money, baby. The expected profit for the Church being pimped reaches far beyond financials. We measure success by asking: How many new visitors did you have on Sunday? How many salvations happened through your church this week, this month, this year? What’s your annual budget? How many missionaries are you sending out and supporting? What’s your square footage? What’s your baptism count?
Bigger buildings, mega-campuses, skyrocketing budgets all seem to be signs of doing something right. Growth equals success, even if that growth is thousands of Christians only able to drink spiritual milk, unable to eat spiritual meat.
Competition is king and it’s that spirit which has overtaken the Church. It’s one pimp staking his claim over another. Suddenly, it’s not the first that shall be last, but the first shall be winners. In the name of “spiritual profit,” individual churches competes to be the fastest, the biggest, the most unique, the sexiest. The competition breeds division. If one denomination or church down the street is doing it, well then, our girl should be doing it, too… only better.
When our precious little lady doesn’t perform on the streets and fails to bring in “more business” (i.e. church numbers) or “new business” (i.e. unsaved), we’re quick to punish her, as if she had something to do with it.
“You’re not enough,” we yell at her. We look instead to political ideologies, national campaigns, and non-profits to do her work. We scold her for her shortcomings, forgetting all the while that we’re the ones who forced her into the biz in the first place.
We acknowledge that she’s broken in places, but instead of healing her, we place her limbs in a sling and force her to keep turning tricks. Where restoration is needed, we instead offer recycling of the same failed efforts and fruitless works.
We don’t strike her face or leave visible marks for the outside world to see. No, she has to keep up appearances, after all. So instead of publically admitting her flaws, we bruise her where no one else can see—in her leadership, in her theology. We end up with a twisted, mangled, and distorted Gospel, but one that’s much easier for the average American to play around with. It’s not all Truth, but it’s the tease that at least gets them in the front door.
Over time, she grows tired, haggard, weary from all that we expect of her. She can’t really live up to our expectations. She was designed by God to make disciples, not to please people. So we commit the ultimate sin against her: we leave.
Thousands of us are walking out on her when she needs us most. We betray her by abandoning her and picking up the next hot young thing. We tell ourselves she’s old, weathered, irrelevant. We head down the street hungry for the next trend or craze, certain that we’ll find more satisfaction in someone else’s arms.
In our pursuit of relevancy, we’ve forsaken our theology. In our need to be current and catchy, we’ve defiled the Church and abused her.
Through our pimping, profiting, and eventual betrayal of her, we’ve forgotten who she really is—the bride of Christ. Instead, she’s traipsing around town in garments unbecoming of a wife, dressed in our versions of what the world wants, cut too tight and too short. She should be clothed in her wedding gown, holy, beloved. And we wonder why people don’t recognize her.
We tell everyone to check her out, but people only glance, expecting to see something of God. Instead they see a counterfeit version of her, dressed as a whore.
But the Church isn’t a whore. She’s the hope of the world, God’s plan A. She is us. Our protection of her identity is crucial. We have to stop selling her on the street. We have to know her purpose. We have to save her. She is supposed to bring radical change to the world. A tall order, but she is capable…If only we let her.
Where we’ve allowed consumerism and competition to reign, may we repent. Where we’ve disgraced her name and then walked away, may we repent. May we defend her with our words, actions, and our very lives. Jesus still loves us and gave Himself up for us. When He returns, he’s not looking for a tramp but a bride.
And we can repeat the angel’s very words back to Him, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”